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Capacity-building in support of trade integration, with emphasis on integrated trade information flow management and trade facilitation in Central Asia

Background:

International trade is a key vehicle for national economic growth, the elimination of poverty and enhanced regional cooperation, and its contribution to prosperity leads to greater economic stability. The newly independent States of Central Asia have, during the transition period, developed diverse trade policies, procedures, standards and documents, which has created unintended impediments to trade and growth.

Several efforts by United Nations agencies and international development actors supporting regional initiatives on trade have thus been stymied. However, even if measures were taken to promote effective trade policies aimed at greater subregional integration, the countries still lack the requisite capacity to implement them. A second problem is the lack of an integrated approach to the gathering and sharing of information on trade and transport, which is at the core of trade facilitation in international supply chains. Thirdly, political problems often overshadow the priorities of regional integration, efficient trade and potentially profitable transport corridors. Furthermore, some countries’ accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has not yet brought the expected benefits, as most of the neighbours with which they have the closest trade links have not acceded to the system.

ECE and ESCAP recently organized a number of expert group meetings that focused on issues of trade facilitation in Central Asia. ECE has supported the establishment of the Transport Corridor of Europe, the Caucasus and Asia (TRACECA) project for harmonizing trade procedures, which led to the setting up of national working groups. Yet international standards for documentary procedures, such as those of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, have not been fully taken into account. Moreover, because of resource limitations ECE recently stopped its support for TRACECA activities on trade procedures.

Therefore, the proposed project will respond to the urgent need for trade facilitation and subregional integration. The project will seek to implement a harmonized set of trade and transport documents in the region. In this context, it will support the objectives of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia and will be executed by ECE, in collaboration with ESCAP and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Objective:

To increase the capacity of Central Asian countries to develop regional trade integration and facilitation policies, so as to increase their competitiveness in regional and global markets.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Improved capacity to formulate policy for trade integration, liberalization and facilitation, implementation of free trade agreements and improved trade information flows
  • Improved local capacity to implement policy in regional trade integration and to deal with innovative tools for trade facilitation and integrated management of trade information flows
  • Increased capacity of local government agencies and businesses to implement international standards for trade facilitation and electronic business

Implementation status:

The Fifth Tranche UNDA project met its major objectives. It increased the understanding in the countries participating in the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) of the importance of trade facilitation as a driver of development. Consequently, it led to a higher level of implementation of trade facilitation measures in Central Asia. It enhanced the knowledge of policy makers and the aid agencies active in the region of the key concepts, standards, and best practices, promoted by the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UNCEFACT), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and other international organizations, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

These objectives were achieved through the delivery of five capacity-building seminars focused on: (a) the integrated approach to trade facilitation throughout the supply chain; (b) the Single Window for export and import clearance; (c) electronic trade documents; (d) trade facilitation at the border (simplifying documentary controls, combining and moving them away from the border); and (e) public-private cooperation mechanisms for trade facilitation.

The seven countries participating in SPECA are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.